The popularization of social networks transformed us from a society of passive media consumers into a highly segmented culture of content generators and on-demand end-users. Today, DVR and text-walking combat Madison Avenue’s 30-second spots and 100-ft billboards, diluting the once dominant voice of big business. And as a result, start-ups and local commerce have never been more optimistic. People are simply more influenced by other people than they are by brands. Affiliate programs provide a framework to incentivize people to promote your brand.
The consumer psyche
The consumer IQ is at an all-time high. They’ve altered their decision making process to be reliant on the recommendations of friends and fellow buyers. We see this in the popularity of user-review sites like Yelp, Epinions and Amazon’s customer reviews. The reason for their popularity is evident: why trust the biased opinion of a paid-advertisement if it’s polar opposite is readily available?
Marketers are flocking to the wide range of affordable white-label word of mouth marketing tools (WOMM) found online. While a corporation can still justify the ROI of a $10 million TV and print campaign, smaller operations have more of a fighting chance using new tools to perpetuate WOMM.
Among these tools are brand ambassadors, affiliate marketing, viral videos, social media networks, and blogs. To consumers, they’re perceived as a more credible way for company’s to communicate. And to companies, they’re a way to increase brand engagement in a non-threatening environment.
Return on engagement
Consumers perceive the output of WOMM tools the same way they would a line outside a nightclub. The amount of people you get to comment on your blog or Facebook wall or watch your video are the equivalent to the amount of people in line waiting to be admitted inside the club. The longer the line or in the marketers case the more people interacting with your brand, the more exciting and buzz-worthy the product or service is perceived.
The marketing industry stresses the importance of ROI, but really, since the consumer psyche has evolved, return on engagement (ROE) should be an equally important performance measure.
For example take a look at the value added by a company using Twitter. Although companies aren’t able to monetize their usage of the tool directly, you’d be hard-pressed to find any major company or brand not investing time and resources curating and updating their twitter feed. What does Audi, the NYTimes or Ben & Jerry’s have to gain from operating a twitter handle? It’s the ROE, that long line of people waiting outside their club, making everybody else curious as to what’s happening on the inside.
Affiliate marketing programs will perpetuate the growth of ROE as well as aid in strengthening a companies Net Promoter Score (NPS), a loyalty metric that measures the likelihood a customer would recommend your company to a friend of colleague. This metric has become an industry standard to help gauge the loyalty of online applications users and it is valued by corporate giants General Electric and Apple as a motivating factor to increase focus on product improvement and customer service.
Finding new ways to increase the amount of time a consumer spends with your brand is an opportunity for businesses to prove their value – and implementing NPS ensures a proper way to evaluate your programs and to make proper adjustments.
The Evolution of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing has been used by organizations for decades. Companies would send products or service coupons to publications/influencers/any one with a significantly sized and relevant audience, with the hope that their products or services would reach new audiences.
Online affiliate marketing programs incentivize and facilitate the distribution of buzz, much like a Red Bull brand ambassadors would do so by handing out free samples on the street corners of college campuses. The difference being that, it’s a lot easier to spread content online than setting up physical operations. In turn these online programs increase consumer engagement, generate buzz and acclimate new customers with your product in a controlled, measurable and friendly atmosphere.
Anyone with a defined and richly engaged audience, from a massive publisher to a celebrated blogger to even a Facebook socialite, can reap huge benefits by aligning relevant affiliate programs to their audience. Non-profits can use it to raise cash for a cause and students can share links to make some extra spending money. It’s free to sign up for the program and there is no limit to who can use it.
In the early days, implementing and tracking an affiliate marketing or grassroots campaign would be costly ($10-100k), timely and often inaccurate. But now most of the online tools used for the campaigns are equipped with real-time statistical tracking tools and web-stats can be downloaded via Google Analytics.
Case Study: getta!Table Affiliate Program
We recently launched an affiliate program for Facebook restaurant offer platform getta!Table. We used HasOffers, a free affiliate tracking service, that allowed for customization of offers and rates of incentives offered to the affiliates, partners and publishers.
It took less time for us to set up the affiliate program than it did to design a nice landing page to explain it.
Once we made the program public on our website, anyone was able to sign up to become an affiliate. All that is required to become an affiliate is the completion of a simple 3 step process.
- Step 1: Anyone can create an account (it’s simple) – which gives them access to the links getta!Table wants promoted.
- Step 2: They share it on their blog, website, Facebook – basically anywhere people click.
- Step 3: Users receive compensation for reaching set benchmarks in number of clicks solicited and an even greater compensation for number of purchases made via your links shared.
- Users will receive $5 for every 10 people that click their link (Cost Per Click)
- Users will receive $50 for every 10 people that make a purchase through your link (Cost Per Purchase)
Somewhere someone has too much food and someone else is starving, if you can find a way to connect the two it adds tremendous value. Affiliate programs provide an automated framework to incentivize people to connect products to people that need them. This creates a crowdsourced micro economy everyone benefits from. With the click of a button, start-ups and small companies can use these online platforms to launch and curate affiliate marketing programs, increasing the odds that they’ll connect individuals with products or services that fulfill their needs.